Q: In August I hired a new hip-hop teacher. We were really excited, because he seemed to be very professional and a great dancer. However, parents have expressed concerns over his choreography, and now his classes have dropped from 15-plus to 4 or 5. Should I keep him until May or let him go now? Will this affect my school’s reputation?
A: Good reputations are built on business management, artistic direction, capable faculty and staff, and commitment to customer service and successful students. It is clear you must take action as soon as possible when a situation like this occurs. The red flag is the sharp drop in enrollment and, as the studio owner/director, it’s imperative to meet with the teacher to address the concerns that parents have expressed over the choreography. Did it cause safety issues? If so, there is a legal liability. Was it not age-appropriate? It would be helpful to assess through a meeting or an exit survey with dissatisfied parents/students exactly what they dislike about this teacher and his style.
If the teacher is open to suggestions, willing to be coached and interested in aligning with your school’s culture, this may be an opportunity for a second chance. In that case, create a plan, make adjustments and communicate immediately with all current and dropped students to let them know of the positive changes you have made. Mentoring and shadowing from you or your director are helpful in making sure the standards are upheld.
Though if you’ve determined that this teacher is not a good fit for your studio, the sooner you replace him the better. Your students and parents will respect your ability to maintain a quality program that meets their expectations. You may immediately want to reach out by phone if you think that is best, or distribute a letter just to the students past and present in his classes. It can be handled with a simple statement: “We have chosen to replace Brian with Chris beginning on [date]. We regret any inconvenience this change may cause, but we feel Chris is a better fit for our studio and our students’ needs.” This statement maintains professionalism and respect for everyone involved and minimizes rumors and gossip.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.